A Randomized Efficacy Trial of Moms and Teens for Safe Dates Importance: Children who have been exposed to domestic violence are at increased risk for many negative outcomes, including internalizing and externalizing problems and behaviors, 1-6 and they are at increased risk of using violence against their dating partners when they become adolescents. 7-13, 183 Despite this increased risk and the fact that approximately 15 million children are exposed to domestic violence yearly, 14 there have been no evaluations of dating abuse prevention programs conducted with this population. Objectives: The proposed study is to test the efficacy of a selective family-based program for the primary prevention of dating abuse perpetration targeted at adolescents who have been exposed to domestic violence. The program to be evaluated, Moms and Teens for Safe Dates, targets mothers who have left an abusive partner and their 12 to 15 year old adolescents. This program has been fully developed with support from the National Institute of Justice, but its efficacy has not yet been evaluated.
The aims of the study are to: 1) Test the efficacy of Moms and Teens for Safe Dates in preventing psychological, physical, and sexual dating abuse perpetration by adolescents;2) Determine if program effects on dating abuse perpetration outcomes occur through changes in the theoretically- and empirically-based mediating variables presented in our conceptual model;and 3) Test for moderators of program effects including sex and minority status of the adolescent, degree of adolescent exposure to domestic violence, and the mother's psychological health. Study Design: A pre-test post-test control group experimental design will be used to evaluate the efficacy of the program. Baseline telephone interviews will be conducted with 560 eligible mothers and their adolescents. After the baseline interview, half (n = 280) of these families will be randomly allocated to the treatment condition and the other to the control condition. Families in the treatment condition will receive Mom's and Teens for Safe Dates. Follow-up telephone interviews will be conducted with the treatment and control group mothers and adolescents 1-year after intervention delivery. In addition to supporting the development of the program, the National Institute of Justice funding supported the development of all research protocols and data collection instruments needed for the proposed study;thus we are poised to evaluate the efficacy of Moms and Teens for Safe Dates in the proposed randomized trial with the ability to devote all of the funding support to program evaluation rather than to both program development and evaluation. Setting: UNC research staff will collaborate with staff from the North Carolina Coalition against Domestic Violence (NCCADV) to recruit eligible mothers and to deliver the Moms and Teens for Safe Dates program. NCCADV is one of 14 state-level coalitions funded by CDC through the DELTA program which is a mechanism used by CDC to promote the primary prevention of intimate partner violence. By collaborating with the NCCADV, systems and protocols will be set up that could be used by them and other DELTA coalitions in the future to disseminate Moms and Teens for Safe Date if it is found to be efficacious. Also, costs associated with program implementation will be collected throughout the study so that it will be available to agencies wanting to disseminate the program if it is found to be efficacious. Participants: 560 mothers who have been exposed to domestic violence, but are no longer living with the abuser, and their 12 to 15 year old adolescents will be recruited throughout North Carolina primarily through the activities of the NCCADV. Intervention: Moms and Teens for Safe Dates consists of 6 booklets mailed to study mothers, followed by health educator telephone calls two weeks after each mailing. The booklets include information and interactive exercises for mothers to do with their adolescents and the health educator telephone calls promote participation, assess program activity completion, and answer questions. This structure is similar to the structure of our universal family-based program for preventing adolescent dating abuse called Families for Safe Dates and our family-based substance use prevention program called Family Matters, both of which demonstrated efficacy in randomized trials and resulted in high family participation. 133,134,186 The content of the program is based on a theoretically- and empirically-based conceptual model, the results from formative research funded by the National Institutes of Justice, and the content of Families for Safe Dates. Outcome measures: The efficacy of the program on the initiation of physical dating abuse perpetration and the amount of psychological, physical, and sexual dating abuse perpetration will be assessed (Aim 1). Theoretically- and empirically-based mediators of these program effects will be assessed (Aim 2), as will moderators of program effects on psychological and physical dating abuse perpetration (Aim 3).
Adolescent dating abuse can interfere with the developmental tasks of adolescents, distort perceptions of normative behaviors, become inappropriate guides for evaluating future relationships, and have negative psychological and physical consequences. Adolescents who have been exposed to domestic violence are at increased risk of being abusive to dates. This study tests the efficacy of a family-based program in preventing dating abuse perpetration by adolescents exposed to domestic violence. If the program is effective its dissemination could contribute toward breaking the cycle of family violence that leads to so many of our society's health and social problems.